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Safety first: Lawsuit challenges Duval County school guard plan

In an effort to comply with SB 7026, the school safety bill passed after the Parkland massacre, Duval County decided to use “school safety assistants.”

A group of plaintiffs including the League of Women Voters filed a legal challenge Thursday, arguing the plan is illegal and discriminatory.

The LWV suit says the plan puts “thousands of students at risk — especially students of color and students with disabilities — but also violates Florida law that prohibits carrying guns in schools.”

Central to the claim: School safety assistants are not law enforcement officers, an exempt class from that requirement.

The suit contends that unarmed school personnel “could develop emergency-response plans with law enforcement, create and promote comprehensive mental health services, serve as the point of contact for local child-serving agencies and first responders, ensure that entrances and exits are properly secured, train school staff and students in emergency preparedness, and undertake other safety-related functions.”

The qualifications for school safety assistants include a high school degree and a driver’s license, being over 21, being able to pass a drug test, and 144 hours of training total.

School safety assistants have been criticized in the press since they came into fruition this fall.

One assistant was found to have pawned his school-issued revolver twice.

The program was instituted as a budget measure. The state provided $3.6 million of “safe schools” money, which allowed the district to fund 107 positions at $12.50 an hour. Jacksonville police officers would have cost over $10 million to fund for a similar role.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at

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